Athens: Part Two

On my second day in Athens, I awoke feeling refreshed and ready for the day. I walked to the metro station and hopped on a train, feeling almost like a local. There was no getting lost today – I knew exactly where I was going.

I had planned to get to the Acropolis early, before the hordes of other tourists, but I was still jet lagged, and it was about 10.00am by the time I arrived. There were already school groups and tour groups and every type of group imaginable clogging up the paths and clicking their cameras.

I felt weary as I tramped up the hill. The sun was beating down on me and making everything feel harder than it should, but I could see the Parthenon glowing at the top, and knew I wanted to get there.

I’m ashamed to say that I really don’t know anything about Greek history, so I stood dutifully at each sign and read all the information. I tried desperately to take it all in and be better than a typical tourist who comes to gawk and take pictures. Sadly though, I couldn’t focus on the information and couldn’t remember a thing that I’d read, except for some vague snippets about a poet called Menander, so in the end I just gawked and took my pictures.

The poet Menander – apparently considered the father of psychological drama.

I followed the writhing throng of tourists to the top of the hill, trying not to step on small children or knock over old people, and doing my best to duck out of other people’s photographs.

As I passed through the ancient gateway and caught my first glimpse of the Parthenon, I saw that the entire front was covered in scaffolding. My excitement dropped a little, but it was grand nonetheless. As I walked around to the other side though, I was thrilled to see that it was scaffold-free and glistening gloriously in the sunlight.

The reality of visiting the Parthenon.

I marvelled at the gigantic columns that are older than I can begin to comprehend. I took dozens of photos that are probably all exactly the same, and then I sat quietly among the crowds and soaked in the scene. For as far as I could see in every direction, there was a sprawl of white and beige houses with red roofs. Against a backdrop of clear blue sky, the Parthenon gleamed proudly above the city. It was with reluctance that I eventually wandered back down the hill, occasionally looking back for one last glimpse.

The Erechtheion – another temple atop the Acropolis.

I went straight to the Acropolis Museum, which is beautifully designed, with glass floors that allow you to see the ruins of an ancient roman settlement beneath the building. I strolled through with my hands behind my back and smiled pleasantly at the rooms of marble statues and painted ceramic pots.

It was a nice museum, displaying the artefacts excellently, but I couldn’t help but feel that there must be others like me out there, who need a bit more creativity to help bring the period to life. The most interesting signs were those for children, which encouraged you to imagine how life must have been for the people of that time. Why can’t museums have more like this for adults too? Why must the details of history be written in such a dry and boring way?

After looking at as many statues as I could before my eyes glazed over, I wandered into the museum cafe – the best part of the museum, in my opinion – and enjoyed an iced coffee on a balcony where I had an unobstructed view of the Parthenon floating in the sky above.

The sprawling city of Athens.

After a tiring morning of sightseeing, I was keen to get out of the city for a while. It was hot and busy and too much for my weary, jet-lagged body to bear. I found a tourist bus that would take me to a place called Vouliagmeni Lake where you could apparently swim in mineral rich waters and have your feet pedicured by fish that eat your dead skin. It sounded wonderful.

Although it threatened to rain during the bus journey to the lake, by the time I arrived it was sunny and warm again. The lake was just as gorgeous as I had hoped it would be, with tall cliffs towering on one side and a boardwalk filled with sun lounges and umbrellas on the other.

Vouliagmeni Lake.

I gingerly waded into the water and gazed up at the cliffs. It was so peaceful. After the crowds of Athens, this felt like a true oasis. There were only a few dozen people there, some lazily breast-stroking across the lake, others sunning themselves on the lounges. I swam a slow lap and then settled down at the side to let the fish do their thing.

As soon as I was still, the fish were there, tickling as they bit softly at my feet. Before long I had a swarm, and could barely see my toes. I don’t know if this is normal or if I have an unusually large amount of dead skin… Maybe I’ll just blame the fact that my feet are very big.

It was surprisingly relaxing, lying there with fish nibbling at me as I enjoyed the view. I’m not sure if my feet were any softer for it, but it was a great experience.

I finished off the day by heading back to Athens, and amazingly I found myself on the street of great-looking restaurants that I had searched for the day before. I took myself to a rooftop restaurant that had a spectacular view of the Parthenon. The food actually wasn’t anything special and I was paying a fortune for the view. But I didn’t mind, Athens had won me over.

My view from the rooftop restaurant.

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